Hello gentle reader, and welcome to the SwitchArcade Round-Up for December 4th, 2023. I’ve been catching up on my work as much as possible lately, and that translates to a whopping six reviews for you to read today. The list includes Astlibra Revision, Worldless, Alina of the Arena, Alien Death Mob, Time Master, and Kickback Slug: Cosmic Courier. That’s the counter-balance to the sad list of new releases, of which there are only a couple. We finish up in our usual fashion with the lists of new and expiring sales. Let’s go!
Reviews & Mini-Views
Astlibra Revision ($24.99)
Wow, this game really got its claws into me. I did what the game suggested and played the included demo first, which gives you an absurdly over-powered character and explains how the game works quite well. It concludes by jumping back to the past, where a bird asks what kind of dream you were having. When you start the main game it begins in that past, setting up the fascinating, twist-filled story that follows. This is a 2D action RPG which was developed over the course of fifteen years by one guy before a team came in and helped him flesh it out into what we see here.
And what we see here is a game whose main story takes around forty to fifty hours to complete, which is quite a lot for something of this nature. You’ll be doing a lot of fighting, and thankfully the combat system is enjoyable and just deep enough to keep things from getting boring. You’ll be doing a lot of exploring, and that’s all rather well built. Story? Holy smokes, is there story. This game is as wild as any visual novel at times with how much it messes with you. You’ll also have to do some mild puzzle solving. It all just flows so well from one thing to the next that it’s extremely difficult to put the game down.
Astlibra Revision is an outstanding game, and one I didn’t even see coming. It takes a little time to get going, but once it does this is a genuine ride that you won’t want to get off of. You can sometimes feel the game’s patchwork nature at times, but that doesn’t do much to hurt what is otherwise an amazingly fun experience. If you like action-RPGs or just are in the mood for a bonkers story, you have to play Astlibra Revision.
SwitchArcade Score: 4.5/5
This game is so nice to look at. It uses simple, clean visuals and careful use of colors to make every pop. It makes it a little hard to distinguish some of the areas from each other, but I suppose you take the bad with the good sometimes. I think the controls are really responsive, too. I appreciate that despite broadly following a Metroidvania-ish stlyle, it mixes things up with turn-based combat and some non-standard navigation. With all that said, I found myself not having as much fun with Worldless as I thought I would.
The combat is probably the culprit here, as it’s one of those games where you need to whack the enemy to fill up some kind of meter. I don’t get on with that kind of things sometimes, and it’s even worse here because it requires some very strict timing. You have to mix up your attacks to take advantage of enemy weaknesses and defend with extreme precision lest you waste all your efforts to fill the meter. You can try as many times as you like with each encounter, but I found some that I just couldn’t get right no matter how hard I tried. That’s a skill issue, I know. But consider it a warning to those of you who aren’t so good at timing-based button presses. You have to be a really sharp whip with them in this game.
That said, if you’re okay with that kind of tricky timing, you’ll likely find Worldless to be a unique and fascinating journey. It has a distinct style that it strongly commits to, and while there are costs to that in terms of environment variety, I respect the choice. The game can be a bit slow until you hit a certain point that I won’t spoil, but stick with it and you’ll be rewarded. Not the best game of its kind around, but it might be the right medicine for those tired of the usual exploratory adventure.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Alina of the Arena ($14.99)
This is another card building roguelite RPG, but it has an interesting wrinkle on the usual formula. Instead of a standard RPG line-up of your characters on one side of the screen versus the enemies on the other side of the screen, battles take place in an arena made up of a grid of circles. This adds an element of positioning to each battle that is just enough to help this stand out from the crowd. And that’s a good thing, because Alina of the Arena mostly sticks to the script otherwise.
In each of the challenges, you have to fight a set number of battles before taking on the champion. Aside from the fights, there are also random events and a variety of other things like shops that might come up. All of this is shown to you from the get-go on a chart. All of the possible encounters are sorted into three ladders, and you have access to the bottom rung of each. There are far more fights than you’ll need in order to take on the champ, but you’ll sometimes want to fight them anyway in order to get to something useful higher in that ladder. As you make your way through, you’ll add new cards to your deck and find various new pieces of equipment and items. Once you run out of HP, you’re done. You might unlock new job classes to try or new cards, and that’s cool.
I really enjoyed playing Alina of the Arena. It sticks to the recipe for the most part, but it does it well. The arena aspect gives it a slightly distinct flavor, one that I found compelling. It was a little tough early on, but once I unlocked a new class or two I found things clicked really nicely. I wish the UI was a little less awkward, and it’s a little light content-wise compared to some of its peers, but on the whole this is a battle worth fighting.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Alien Death Mob ($4.99)
If you like frantic top-down twin-stick shooters, you’ll have a blast with Alien Death Mob. It feels heavily inspired by Robotron 2084, more so than most games in this genre, an influence that is made all the more clear by it having a Robotron homage in a couple of its bonus arcade modes. Indeed, those bonus modes may indeed be the closest we get to having Robotron on the Switch given WB Games’ reluctance to reissue the classic games it’s sitting on. With clever spins on Space Invaders and Berzerk also included, I’d frankly recommend Alien Death Mob just on those bonus modes alone.
But wait! You also get the story mode, which takes you on a rather lengthy world tour, stopping at each point to battle multiple waves of vicious aliens. The different stage layouts really mix things up, and there are a surprising number of enemy types. Part of the fun is just how overwhelmed you are by the sheer numbers of foes. Grabbing a power-up at the last second and mowing through them to give yourself a little breathing room always feels great. Speaking of power-ups, there are tons of different weapons in the game. You’re always getting something interesting to work with, and trying to keep up the rhythm of grabbing shields, the multiplier, and the next weapon pick-up before you get devoured is enjoyable work.
The only thing keeping me from giving Alien Death Mob my highest recommendation is the lack of any sort of online leaderboards. When a game involves score-chasing, I like to have those in this day and age. For the price it’s asking, if you have any love whatsoever for classic arcade action then you’ll definitely want to pick this up. It’s packed to the brim with content and all of it is fun to play. It’s an excellent game that straddles the past and present perfectly.
SwitchArcade Score: 4.5/5
Time Master ($14.99)
Time Master is a solid puzzle game with a hook you might have seen in a few other games before, but only a few. You play as a little wizard fellow, and you need to scoop up all of the crystals on each stage to activate the portal that takes you to the next one. But right from the first stage, that seems impossible. You can only jump so high, and falling down to reach the crystal makes it impossible to get back to the exit. Behold, the power of time! You can rewind time once per stage, allowing you to do something different while your past self carries out whatever you did the first time. This is the primary tool in your box for clearing the many challenges the game throws at you, though not your only one.
It’s a good gimmick to build a game like this around, and it’s implemented well here. It starts off very simple, but things pick up in a real hurry. You have to fully master using your clone to manipulate various elements of each stage not only to collect the crystals but to make a path for you to get where you need to go. To fully clear the game, you’ll need to not only beat each stage but beat it quickly enough to get three stars, and that’s a fantastic challenge. It’s certainly not a game to be trifled with despite its colorful appearance.
If you enjoy tough puzzle platformers that will have you pulling your hair out for hours trying to solve a single stage, Time Master is for you. If you are easily frustrated, then Time Master really isn’t for you. It has a great presentation and the way it subtly ramps up the complexity in each stage despite mainly being built around one core mechanic is the mark of a game with great design. Some of the platforming is a bit more awkward than I would like, and you’re either going to love or hate the protagonist, but otherwise I can’t find much to knock on with this game.
SwitchArcade Score: 4/5
Kickback Slug: Cosmic Courier ($11.99)
Kickback Slug: Cosmic Courier is a great title for this game. You play as a mail-delivering slug that can only get around via various means of propulsion. The first is by using your gun to shoot in the opposite direction from where you want to go. The gun can also be used to defeat enemies and activate switches, though do keep in mind that firing will send you sailing. You can also release gas, which is an easier way of moving around if you don’t need to do precise adjustments. Finally, you can fling yourself at high speed, an action only recommended if you know there is nothing dangerous ahead of you. Your slug will pop if you hit anything too deadly, and you’ll get a sense for what will kill you pretty quickly.
There are fifty stages, and you need to find the package on each and bring it to the exit portal. If you choose to, you can activate a timer at the beginning and give yourself a time limit, but simply reaching the end of the level gets pretty tough once you get past the first world. If you like games that require careful thrusts, you’ll probably enjoy the regular stages here. Each world has nine of those, with the tenth dedicated to a boss battle. These are less enjoyable since the bosses take a lot of hits yet have fairly simple patterns, making them kind of boring. They feel a bit out of place.
I enjoyed Kickback Slug: Cosmic Courier, but despite its best attempts to keep mixing things up with new obstacles and themes, the moment-to-moment gameplay felt like it plateau’d a bit too early. I also wasn’t a fan of the boss battles, which drag on too long and feel ill-matched to the rest of the game. It looks and sounds good, with a nice cartoony vibe that really pops. Those who enjoy games with thrust mechanics or just want an action game that does things a little differently from the norm might want to check this one out.
SwitchArcade Score: 3.5/5
Official Spacefarer Card Game ($4.99)
Slim pickings today, eh? Spacefarer Games tries its hand (heh) at a card battler, with the cards themselves based on characters from the publisher’s various games. The rules seem very simple and you can only play against a CPU opponent, which seems like a serious missed opportunity. Well, I’m sure someone will enjoy it.
The Bin Bunch
Fall Cars – Ultimate Car Battle ($9.99)
(North American eShop, US Prices)
With the big Cyber Deals sale done with, we’re sitting in the aftermath. And I have to say, there isn’t much exciting here. Some good games, but after you’ve been swimming in the rapids the community pool just won’t do anymore. Have a look at both lists anyway. You never know what you’ll find.
Select New Sales
Unforeseen Incidents ($13.99 from $19.99 until 12/12)
Growbot ($13.99 from $19.99 until 12/12)
Lamplight City ($10.49 from $14.99 until 12/12)
Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet ($9.99 from $19.99 until 12/12)
The Longing ($11.24 from $14.99 until 12/12)
Mutropolis ($12.99 from $19.99 until 12/12)
Sonority ($13.99 from $19.99 until 12/12)
Gordian Quest ($13.99 from $19.99 until 12/18)
God of Rock ($11.99 from $29.99 until 12/18)
Inertia 2 ($3.70 from $4.39 until 12/22)
Bomb ($1.99 from $9.99 until 12/22)
Elderand ($9.99 from $19.99 until 12/23)
Batora: Lost Haven ($9.99 from $24.99 until 12/24)
Yoku’s Island Express ($3.99 from $19.99 until 12/24)
Before We Leave ($3.99 from $19.99 until 12/24)
The Survivalists: Deluxe ($2.69 from $26.99 until 12/24)
Greak: Memories of Azur ($3.99 from $19.99 until 12/24)
The Escapists: GotY Edition ($4.04 from $26.99 until 12/24)
Worms Rumble: Digital Deluxe ($2.19 from $21.99 until 12/24)
Thymesia: Cloud Version ($14.99 from $29.99 until 12/24)
Going Under ($3.99 from $19.99 until 12/24)
Narita Boy ($2.49 from $24.99 until 12/24)
Sales Ending Tomorrow, December 5th
Among Us ($3.00 from $5.00 until 12/5)
Bit Orchard: Animal Valley ($1.99 from $6.99 until 12/5)
BIT.TRIP Collection ($2.45 from $9.99 until 12/5)
Borderlands 3 Ultimate Edition ($40.19 from $59.99 until 12/5)
D-Corp ($1.99 from $17.99 until 12/5)
Deflector ($1.99 from $22.99 until 12/5)
Labyrinth of the Witch ($7.49 from $14.99 until 12/5)
LOUD: RockStar Edition ($1.99 from $9.99 until 12/5)
NBA 2K24 Kobe Bryant Edition ($26.99 from $59.99 until 12/5)
Package Rush ($1.99 from $14.99 until 12/5)
RazerWire: Nanowars ($1.99 from $9.99 until 12/5)
Sky Caravan ($1.99 from $19.99 until 12/5)
Space Tail: Every Journey Leads Home ($6.99 from $9.99 until 12/5)
The Blind Prophet ($1.99 from $24.99 until 12/5)
That’s all for today, friends. We’ll be back tomorrow with more reviews, more new releases, more sales, and perhaps some news. My doctor’s appointment today went okay, at least in as much as I won’t need an operation immediately. Hooray for small favors? I hope you all have a marvelous Monday, and as always, thanks for reading!